It is approximately thirty nautical miles from Marina del Rey in Los Angeles to Avalon, the town on Catalina Island just off the coast of Southern California. Recently I sailed there for the first time on a hot May afternoon. During the seven hour motor sail, I could see the smoke from fires down in San Diego, and I was glad to be surrounded by water.
Even though I spent only one night in Avalon, I did have time to Zipline. My Aunt had ziplined two years ago and raved about it. There was even a photo of her flying through the air and waving at the camera. I could do it. Yes, maybe?
There was just small snafu.
I have a problem with heights.
I discovered this twelve years ago while doing the Bridge Climb on the Sydney Harbor bridge. I was okay on the simulation, but when I was up on the bridge, I looked out at air, air, air, air, and froze. Everyone on the bridge learned my name that day. I remember actually embracing the ground once I got off the bridge.
So I have heights issues. Why would I want to zipline?
I have raced on dinghy sailboats and hiked out over the side of the boat with a harness on. I am comfortable in a harness. I know I won’t fall out. I trust that it will hold me.
However, all trust fell away when I stood on the first platform to zipline on the first of five lines. Sure, it was perfectly safe. Jake the brakeman had just gone a very long way across the line. Then the woman who had ziplined all over the world and said that the Catalina zipline was the safest she had ever been on flew across and actually took a hand off a handlebar.
Then it was my turn. Scott, the zipline guy, asked how I was doing. I had nothing except truth.
I’m really really scared.
I wondered if there was a really really scared clause in the zipline release I had signed with my finger on an ipad down (way far down) by the beach.
That’s okay. Scott said and continued to talk to me about how it was totally rational to be scared while standing on the brink of oblivion. As he talked, we walked to the edge of the platform.
I looked down down down down at hillside and scrub and dirt and little rocks which will really really hurt when I hit them because even though I was in a harness, I knew without doubt that I was going down.
And my hands were sweaty on the handles.
I really didn’t want to do this. So much for trying new things and embracing life with a sense of adventure. So much for my action heroine self-image. I was a big chicken and I was holding everyone up. In fact, I was probably holding up the whole ziplining schedule. Why? Why did I decide that this would be fun?
Then I heard Scott’s voice in the clutter of my anxiety.
Just try one line. If you hate it, you can quit after one, but I think you will love it.
I looked down. I still couldn’t make that step. I took a deep breath. I took another deep breath. Deep breaths are bullshit.
Then I stepped. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I just stepped.
And the harness held me.
And I didn’t have to do anything.
And I was flying. And the air felt so cool. And I was moving. And I was fine. And I was fine. And I was actually enjoying it.
And the handle mechanism slammed into the brake block. Whoah.
And I was on the other side.
Oh-my-God-that-was-awesome-I-want-to-do-it-again. I said to Jake the brake dude. I was bubbly and ecstatic.
She hated it, and she’s cursing your name. Jake said into his radio.
And I let out the biggest laugh.
I did all five ziplines down the canyon. I took a hand off on my second zipline. I still had nerves leaving the platform, but once I was off, I was flying.
I ended up with no picture to show my Aunt. When I did the photo zipline, I was overly confident and tried to do too much. In the photo, I was blocked by my derriere. Eeek. Then again, I don’t need the picture when I have the thousand (or rather 747) words.